Think before you speak.
Know your audience.
Use your words carefully.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Phrases we all know, phrases we all say on a regular basis, but do we live them out?
I was having a conversation not too long ago with some friends of mine, friends who I know but aren’t necessarily my bestest friends ever. As the conversation went on, and they went on giving their opinions on a certain topic, I couldn’t help but think to myself, If they really knew me, they wouldn’t be saying these things so carelessly. They might not even say them at all.
Sure, we can (and should) know our audience, but the reality is that it is highly unlikely we will know every little detail about the lives of everyone in our audience at any given moment. Take blogging, for example. It is downright impossible for me to know the details of each one of my readers’ lives. What I can do, however, is do my best to write from a place of love and charity…and prayer. Think before I write. Say a prayer before you speak, because you never know the depths you could be reaching, or the ache you could be adding to.
Think about it this way: let’s say you are talking to a friend (not your best friend) about abortion. You assume she’s never had one and proceed to talk at length about how awful abortion is and people who have abortions are horrible, no good, very bad sinners. What you don’t know is that this friend had an abortion in high school that you know nothing about, and your rant on abortions and people who have them made her insides knot up. Every bit of shame or regret she already has was just compounded by your rant. Did you know your audience? Sure, you guys are friends, right? I’d venture to bet that if you knew (or later find out) that she had an abortion, you wouldn’t say those things to her. You’d treat her with love, compassion, and mercy. You’d take the time to learn about the circumstances that led to her decision and be there for her to comfort her instead of adding to her pain. Why not start that place of compassion, rather than from a place of self-righteous ranting?
When we breach those topics, whether it is abortion, pre-martial sex, parents who are divorced…pretty much anything, why not stop to think, Do I really know this person? Do I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I end up going off on this topic it won’t hit some buried nerve in them? Then, if you can’t say for certain that you won’t offend them or potentially cause them greater pain, just don’t go there. Ask the other person or people their stance or their experiences (if they are willing to share) and go from there. Think before you speak. Know your audience. But most importantly, pray for the people you interact with, and pray that God would give you His words and that you would be able to speak love and mercy into people’s lives. The Holy Spirit will come with His manifold gifts and guide your words, but you must be open to receive them!